This one is a little weird to me after some time has past. I actually have to convince myself that I wrote it. Not all of it makes sense. I was really obsessed with Silicon Beach and then I wasn’t…
Silicon Beach has arrived in Venice. That is a fact. We cannot do the usual sticking our heads in the sand and flipping it the bird and make it go away. No. There is not enough graffiti in the world to cover it up. Silicon Beach is here to stay and it will continue to grow.
But, I am not afraid. Not yet, anyway. Here is why.
The Venice Creative Community could drive the winds on homelessness, diversity and other important social issues, which are coming to a head. This gives me tremendous comfort. Artists are extremely powerful. Now more then ever, they need to know it. They need to be organized and they need to hold the tech community accountable to its promise to merge with LOCAL talent. They need to feel as if they are vital in what is a life and death struggle.
There is a reason why all the crazy elements of Venice Beach result in such amazing creativity. Defining that reason, well good luck. All I can say is that our fucked up magic works, most of the time. The homeless are part of the drama, part of the struggle, part of the extremes from which artists draw. Not to mention, a lot of young artists, poets and musicians come here and do time on the street.
Once we decide we want the homeless out, who is next? We chip away at our own souls and then we can’t create. The art dries up, the music stops and the whole reason tech came here in the first place is a bust. We all lose, but boy doesn’t the Old ‘Hood look awful shiny for a little while.
And, of course, even if those who want to keep Free Venice get our way, we still have HUGE homeless problems to solve. We have to at least try to help others understand, with patience and grace, for it is we who are the host. We need our hearts and there is not a lot of reason. We just need them.
We live in a country where we have lost so much culture and beauty. We have lost our ability to come together in love, though we can unite in anger and outrage. It is like we all are so worried about when we’re each going to get our own fifteen minutes, we can’t fully celebrate someone else in the height of his or her glory.
I see it, even in Venice, when there is too much competition between so many artists clamoring for attention. I go to an opening where a brilliant musician shyly provides ambience, apologizing for being in a room, when he or she should be surrounded by attuned open hearts. I see some festivals with lower attendance and less making merry than I would expect from wild Bohemians…
Tech possesses enough of a soul to know we have something they need. They just don’t quite know what it is. Or, if they know what it is, they don’t get why we have it and they don’t. I think some of them believe they can hover nearby and pick it up osmosis style. Or, absorb it from our bones as they suffocate Free Venice and make what remains into what they think they want. Some of them want to be us and let go into the freedom we know.
That’s why we have to own who we are, in a way that brings us together, in a way that flares the fire in our bellies into a collective pyre. And yes, that includes the tech folks. It is NOT about losing our individualism. It is about building a solid infrastructure inside which all our individualism is safe for generations to come.
Whether or not anyone wants to hear this, in these parts, Free Venice is the establishment. It has shifted from the counter culture to the local mainstream, simply as a result of time. Free Venice has remained true to its core values and endured. This is one reason why, energetically, Google can be an ally: The shared understanding of what it means to endure and, more importantly, to continue to endure.
The old paradigms don’t work the same. Like Terrorism is an elusive enemy, identifying “the Man” in these modern times is often tricky. While we’re all distracted by the friendly Google giant, who is not really interested in eating our babies, some of these lone wolves (who don’t get us) are munching on our goats in the middle of the night. That is not to say that a friendly giant can’t still be clumsy…
Under the old rules, it seemed more natural to worry about the establishment and embrace the rogue. That now has to be done on a case by case basis. Due diligence is a necessary bitch. Thank God, we have Occupy. We will need help communicating.
The thing about Google – they have an international reputation to maintain. They don’t want to be seen as the company that came to Venice Beach and destroyed diversity, creativity and art. They want to support those things in our community that both work and give them a shiny image. There’s actually quite a bit on which to draw. We need to think, carefully, as a community how to leverage such power. How do we use this new kid on the block (who wants to make nice with the neighbors), to our greatest advantage?
Well, Google offered a diversity pamphlet at the Town Hall entitled The Black Community at Google. Oh, gee, by chance we have a bit of a struggling Black Community in Venice. Why don’t we get some stronger outreach? See if we can get some folks qualified for entry level tech jobs and the anticipated supporting industries. See if we can identify potential local entrepreneurs. Maybe our young startups can help with a little mentoring. Raise the income, knowledge base and resources for people already in the neighborhood and we curb the loss of diversity. We anticipate and use our creativity to prepare.
For that, we need leadership within the community. Calls to action are so important. Answering those calls that speak to your soul are even more important. We need focus. We need archetypes. We need vision. We need good followers. We need inspiration. We need music. We need hope. And, as anything that has lasted and will continue to last, we need change.
We need to figure out how to celebrate all that has endured about Free Venice in the today. We need to be honest about who we are, even if some of what we are isn’t terribly pretty. We need to own our story. Whether we have been good or bad, we sure in the hell have been interesting. We need a healthy sense of humor about ourselves and others. We need to let go of those things that no longer work, even if they were important to us in the past. And on some days, after we have worked really hard, we need to let EVERYTHING go.
Like it or not, we have to decide now if the Free Venice Culture is playing itself out, in the final stages of one hell of a run; or, is there an essence, a heart beat, a philosophy, blood, guts, eyes, a voice that will endure because arthritic hands have been replaced by fresh ones, tired feet just got some shiny new shoes, and a very old soul suddenly found itself inside a young body? To speak in Modern Tech: How do we define our brand so that it is embraceable, impenetrable, open to growth and, because we all have to eat, marketable?
For our creative community, that is the task at hand. As tech rains down, you must build the ark that can hold us all. Artists are the heroes lying in wait. We can set an example for the entire world. We can start the future with love.
And if the ship fucking sinks, we go down in one glorious party…To live who we are without fear, that sounds like win-win to me…
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